A LOCKDOWN LOVE STORY
March 2020. Ten days into lockdown, comic book artist Nick is struggling with the isolation. When his cat brings home a message from a neighbour, it’s a welcome distraction.
Soon, Nick finds himself depending on daily messages from Amanda to get through a bout of depression. But, just as he’s getting a handle on the new normal, the messages stop coming, and Nick has to choose whether to risk his life for a woman he’s never even met.
Bog roll shortages, clapping for the NHS and life on furlough; Cat Message captures the uncertain early days of the pandemic in the UK when people clung to the little things to keep their spirits up.
This is a sweet romance quick read (novelette length).
TW: Some mild sexual references. References to medical procedures and illness.
About this book
A lot of creative people processed 2020 through their art. I wrote a romance novelette, Cat Message, in which two self isolating neighbours connect during lockdown.
It was my way of documenting the lockdown experience – the way it affected me and the people around me – and trying to turn it into something sweet and uplifting.
After a lot of agonising over what to do with it, I decided I just wanted to get it out into the world where people could read it as soon as possible, and went ahead with self publishing. It will be exclusive to Kindle (including Kindle Unlimited) for the first 6 months, after which it will be available on other platforms. There is also a paperback available.
Excerpt from Cat Message
I’m working on a digital painting. One of my commissions. This one is for a sci-fi comic book cover. I do plenty of sequential art, but there is something particularly satisfying about the concentrated effort and reward of a more detailed and polished single piece. Or, normally there is. At the moment, I’m struggling to find the focus for a sustained effort.
Tawny saunters in and sniffs her way around her office, checking it’s all still hers, which it is. Once she’s satisfied, she jumps up on the desk, walks on the keyboard and headbutts my hand, causing me to scrawl a line across the tablet. I lift her into my lap and ctrl+z the damage.
Tawny is nearly two. She still has the sleek, slightly kittenish shape of a cat that hasn’t filled out yet. I’ve had her since she was three months old. She was the last of a litter to be adopted. The volunteers at the shelter said she was nervous around kids and tortoiseshells like her are sometimes harder to rehome because they’re “ugly” (apparently). I think she looks like a sunny autumn day, and she gave me cuddles when we met – I’m a sucker for anyone who shows me affection.
The volunteers also expressed how unusual it is for a single man to adopt a cat. I said I was trying to challenge the gender stereotype of the cat lady – to show that an eccentric, lonely, unloved (un-loveable?) man could just as easily fill the void in his life with feline companionship as could a woman. My speech did not go down well, but they still let me have her.
She rubs her chin on my arm and something snags against my sleeve. There’s a small plastic tube taped to her collar. My isolation addled brain is baffled as to how it could have got there until I remember there are still other humans in the world.
“What’s this?” I ask. I’m not expecting the cat to answer. Talking to pets is a normal thing that people do. It’s perfectly normal.
The edge of a piece of paper pokes out the end and, pinning the cat with one arm, I extract it. Tawny, slightly miffed, wriggles out of my grasp and gets down.
It’s a note: Whose cat is this? It keeps coming into my house.
I’ve still been in contact with the outside world – I’m not on a desert island for God’s sake – but it’s mostly been via email, text chat or phone. Interacting with the world through a glass screen. Somehow, this is different. It’s real. Someone touched this paper and wrote this note, and now I’m holding it in my hand, and it’s like I’m touching them by proxy.
That came out wrong.
How is it possible to feel embarrassed on your own?
Tawny is staring at me.
“Are you waiting for me to write back?” If Tawny’s been trespassing regularly enough for the mystery person to enquire by collar message, she’s bound to go back. It might be fun to see if my message reaches them. God knows I could use a little fun. Tawny’s response is to wash her face with a paw and yawn. I’m not sure how to interpret that.
I’m going to do it. Why not?
I take a square of yellow paper from the note block on my desk and write: Hello. She’s mine, so far as anyone can ever actually “own” a cat. Her name is Tawny, my name is Nick. Who are you?
I roll my message up, slide off my chair and snag Tawny before she can flee. I pop the message in the holder. “Go on then, deliver it.” I release her, and she darts out of the room, clearly deciding I am “being weird”.